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There may be some time in the future (whether near or far, no one knows for sure) where it will be boring to face wave after wave of various types of zombies, smashing them into pieces with your car and watching their mangled torsos roll off of the hood of your car. Now is not that time.
While many gamers people may be bothered by use of zombies in…everything, driving your car into innocents isn’t as accepted as it may have been when video games were less mainstream. Most folks are ok with killing zombies, so we won’t likely see the end of the zombie killing simulator soon. And that’s ok, because it means we get fun, if flawed, diversions like EXOR Studios’ Zombie Driver HD.
The world around you is overrun with zombies of all kinds, something is causing mutations in the people and animals in the area and the military is too busy to take care of everything. So you become unofficially enlisted to take out the zombies. It’s silly, but I think playfully so. It’s a good ‘n cheesy reason to go kill a bunch of zombies.
Zombie Driver HD is about driving and zombies (did you get that?). From your start as a humble taxi driver up through the sports cars, limos and other unlockable vehicles (tank), your purpose is to drive and kill zombies. You can drive into them or shoot them with the various weapons scattered throughout the areas. The weapons appear as pickups, just drive over them and blast away. The controls are simple and intuitive. Your right trigger is gas, left trigger is brake, A to shoot, X to E-brake, B to use your nitro boost, and Y to bring up your map. Steering is performed with the left thumb stick.
The camera is from a top-down perspective, so even though you are controlling a full sized car, it feels like a remote control car. This isn’t a negative in itself, however the game, and more importantly the player, suffers from a limited view distance. Your direction is usually clear, though the path to your objective is not. The areas you visit have multiple routes from point to point with anything from walls and destructible fences, to buildings and bodies of water blocking your path. Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t allow you to see more than a couple of hundred feet in front of you. This means darting towards walls that you can’t see until it’s too late to avoid gracefully. Now your mileage may vary, but this resulted in a bit of a dizzying effect for me while trying to turn at the last second.
There are several zombie types to kill. Normal zombies, dogs, fat explosive zombies, boss zombies. I enjoyed the boss encounters very much. I liked the limitation of having to point your car at the enemy to score a hit, this tests the driving skill of the player, and I found it fun, but I can see others being frustrated by it.
The story mode has you trying to complete primary objectives as well as secondary objectives for bonuses (cash and car unlocks). Primary objectives like rescuing people and driving them to safety or taking out zombie spawn nests are what keep the campaign alive. There is plenty of work here for the completionist who wants to get every unlock and retry missions to finish those secondary objectives.
There are numerous unlockables in the form of weapons upgrades and car upgrades, as well as new cars and car skins. Weapon unlocks, once earned, can be used across all of your vehicles. Weapon pickups include machine guns, rockets, even a rail gun. Car upgrades on the other hand, stay with the car they are unlocked for. So if you put an upgrade point in your car’s speed, only that car benefits from it. You can also improve your cars ability to take damage from the attacking zombies. Another upgrade is your cars ability to ram zombies. Every zombie you hit slows your momentum down a little bit. beef up your ramming ability and you will cut them down with ease.
All these unlocks are “paid for” with money earned in the game by destroying zombies. Kill them with efficiency and you rack up your combo score, earning more money. The mayor of the city is so anti-zombie, that he pays you for taking them down. How he keeps track of your combo meter is unknown.
There are multiple gameplay modes. The main story mode, race tournaments, and a survival mode. I like the campaign. But man, that survival mode is fun. If you have a friend who has played Zombie Driver HD, you can see their score and that helps you to keep pushing for a better score to beat your friend and prove yourself the better zombie killer.
The models and physics in Zombie Driver HD impressed me. I wasn’t expecting much, but later levels really start to fill the screen with zombies and consequently, zombie parts. The graphics really made me wish for the ability to zoom in and see everything more close up. Destructible environments and vehicles and zombie gibs. There is much pretty to look at. The downside to Zombie Driver HD’s graphics is; because there is no V-sync (Xbox version), the screen tearing kicks in. Many people are somehow immune to screen tearing. Sadly, I am not. The screen tearing issue and the relatively short distance you can see in front of you are tragic in a game this pretty. The night levels floored me. The light source of the headlights casting shadows from every zombie, tree, stop sign, fence, whatever, really looked brilliant. Perhaps the V-sync issue is patchable. This is a competent team who supports their products, so it’s a possibility.
It sounds like zombies getting crunched, crushed and splattered. It sounds like cars going vroom and boom. I was pleased with the whole of the sound effects. The voice acting is a different bag. It was hard to tell if it was poorly voice acted on purpose or unconsciously. The writing makes me think on purpose, but either way, it’s functional, and it’s funny to hear the General, who gives you your objectives, say “totally” in its slang form. There is also some humorous writing to the script that I am not sure the people delivering it were aware of. Whatever, at least the squishy sounds are spot on.
There is much good stuff in here and it’s really only hampered by a couple of graphical issues, but they hurt an otherwise great experience. You won’t find an epic quest, and there is no multiplayer, but Zombie Driver HD is still worth a look. And right now, it’s your best fix for driving around with an undead for a hood ornament.
Three and a half out of Five